Thursday, November 30, 2023

Opportunities for Fruit and Fellowship [Family Worship lesson in Titus 3:12–15]

What goes into believers’ plans and greetings? Titus 3:12–15 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers humbly see their neediness and seek/accept help, but also rejoice at opportunities to be used by Christ to meet others’ needs.
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2023.11.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 3:12–15

Read Titus 3:12–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom will the apostle send later (Titus 3:12, cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12)? What is Titus to do, when his ministry sub arrives? In what manner? Why? What two people are bringing this letter (Titus 3:13)? What is Titus to do with them? Who else is to do such things (Titus 3:14, cf. Titus 3:8)? To meet what? What does this give them an opportunity to do? Who already greet whom (Titus 3:15)? How many of them? What is Titus to do on their behalf? To whom? What is the final/closing greeting? From Whom does that ultimately come? How does the apostle attest the finality and faithfulness of this letter?

What goes into believers’ plans and greetings? Titus 3:12–15 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers humbly see their neediness and seek/accept help, but also rejoice at opportunities to be used by Christ to meet others’ needs. 

The apostle’s great need. In Titus 3:12, the apostle tells Titus, “do your utmost to come to me.” The reasoning is that the apostle has made a strategic decision for the best place to spend the winter. In addition to being needy of an advantageous location for these months of ministry, he has the humility to see his need of Titus’s help as well. Apparently, he especially needed his best helpers in the wintertime (cf. 2 Timothy 4:21). 

It is good for Christ’s servants not to think of themselves more highly than they ought (cf. Romans 12:3) but as being needy of the gifts that Christ has invested in other servants as well (cf. Romans 12:4–8).

The church’s great need. Despite Paul’s own need, the church in Crete was needy of Titus’s help, and the apostle was not about to have him abandon that congregation and newly trained elders. Instead, he would send either Artemas or Tychicus (Titus 3:12). Tychicus, in particular, he calls a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant (cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12). Titus is not to leave Crete until his substitute arrives. It is more important to Paul that the church be helped than that he himself be helped.

The church’s opportunities for fruit. Needs, themselves, are opportunities to bear the fruit of the gospel. When Zenas and Apollos came through (probably carrying this letter), whatever they lacked would become an opportunity for Titus to do his utmost (Titus 3:13; “haste” translates a different form of the same root as “be diligent” in Titus 3:12). And once they had gone on, Titus was to continue to lead the congregation in Crete “to maintain good works” (Titus 3:14). 

This was the very thing that he was to affirm in his ministry of the Word (cf. Titus 3:8), and we should probably conclude that the third person plural imperative here refers to the parallel work of the diaconate in that church. Deacons are the sort of men who help the church see “urgent needs” as opportunities to “not be unfruitful”—or, to put it positively, to see urgent needs as divinely appointed opportunities for fruitfulness.

Believers’ opportunities for fellowship. Finally, we see that Paul’s writing to Titus was an opportunity not just for Paul, but for all the believers with him, to express their affection for Titus (Titus 3:15). The wording of the next phrase, especially “those who love us,” both acknowledges that believers in Crete have expressed love toward them, as well as reciprocating that love back. 

“In the faith” reminds us of where such affection among believers comes from: Christ Himself, into Whom they have believed together, and Whose love for them they now share with one another (cf. Philippians 1:8, Philippians 1:9). The more that we know Him together, the more we will increase in love for one another and desire to take our opportunities to express and receive that love.

Everyone’s ultimate neediness. The letter closes with a final greeting that is really a greeting not from the apostle or the believers with him, but from Christ Himself. “Grace be with you all. Amen.” This is a reminder that we have no good in us, but depend entirely upon Christ to be our goodness (cf. Ephesians 2:8). And it is a reminder that we have no strength in us, but depend entirely upon Christ’s strength in us (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). There is no shame in knowing neediness, when there are riches of grace in Christ to be prayed for, received, depended upon, and lived from out of.

In what situations might you need to admit your need of help or fellowship? What are some ways that you can prioritize the church’s corporate needs over your personal needs? What needs in others might you need to be viewing as opportunities for you to bear fruit? What opportunities are you taking advantage of, for expressing the fellowship and affection that are specifically for other Christians and because they are Christians?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we have been too proud to see how we need help, like Paul could see that he needed Titus. And, forgive us for when we have prioritized our own personal needs over the church’s corporate needs, unlike Paul’s willingness not to receive Titus until the church in Crete was taken care of. Forgive us for our lack of interest in bearing fruit, which is exposed when we don’t see others’ needs as an opportunity to bear that fruit. And, forgive us for not taking whatever opportunity You give us to express to others the affection and fellowship that we have with them, simply because we are Christians. Indeed, we need Your forgiveness, Lord, for there are even times when we are forgetful of our need for You and live as if we were not dependent upon grace alone. But, You are full of grace, and we look to You both for forgiveness of sin and cleansing of all unrighteousness, through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

November 29 Midweek Meeting Live Stream (Live at 6:30p)

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Severe Mercy, Subduing Mercy, Superlative Mercy [Family Worship lesson in Isaiah 30]

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure.
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2023.11.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 30

Read Isaiah 30

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon whom is the fourth woe pronounced (Isaiah 30:1a)? What do they do in verse 1b–c? What is wrong with this consulting and planning (cf. Isaiah 30:2b)? Why does this happen (Isaiah 30:1d)? In whom do they trust instead (Isaiah 30:2)? How will this turn out for them (Isaiah 30:3)? What can’t be found even from the northernmost to southernmost parts of Egypt (Isaiah 30:4-5)? What will be found instead (Isaiah 30:5d)? What weight will fall upon whom in Isaiah 30:6? But what will they have to show for their poor beasts’ efforts (Isaiah 30:7)? What will Egypt’s new nickname be (verse 7c)? What word does YHWH now send to those who failed to ask for one (Isaiah 30:8-9)? In fact, what have they actually done to the Lord’s Word (Isaiah 30:10-11)? What are they actually trusting in, instead, when they do this (Isaiah 30:12)? What will the Lord do to their efforts (Isaiah 30:13-14)? What had the Lord YHWH offered them (Isaiah 30:15)? And what had they said that they would do instead (Isaiah 30:16)? So, what is He making the outcome of their plan to be (Isaiah 30:17)? To what end is He bringing this disaster upon them (Isaiah 30:18)? To Whom will He force them to turn? What will He do for them when this happens (Isaiah 30:19)? And what will He restore to them (Isaiah 30:20)? How close will the words of the true prophets be (Isaiah 30:21a)? How practical the application (verse 21b)? How continually (verse 21c–d)? What will they do with their former hope and delight (Isaiah 30:22)? What will the Lord do for them at that point (Isaiah 30:23)? And what else will enjoy the difference (Isaiah 30:24, cf. Isaiah 30:6)? What will He provide (Isaiah 30:25)? How does Isaiah 30:26 communicate the supernatural/new-creation nature of this provision? But what approaches in Isaiah 30:27a? And what will this be like for the nations (Isaiah 30:27-28)? What will YHWH give to His people in that day (Isaiah 30:29)? What comes near/is heard in Isaiah 30:30a? But what will this music and singing be like for those who are the Lord’s enemies (Isaiah 30:30-33)? When was this role for Tophet/Hell purposed (Isaiah 30:33a)? What is it like (verse 33)?

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure

Rebellious children. The fourth woe addresses those who take counsel (Isaiah 30:1b), devise plans (verse 1c), and take advice. The problem is that it isn’t God’s counsel, God’s plan, or God’s advice (Isaiah 30:2b). Thus they are called “rebellious children” (Isaiah 30:1a, Isaiah 30:9). Since they refuse God’s Word *to* them, they will hear God’s Word *about* them (Isaiah 30:8). 

Rejecting God’s authoritative Word (Isaiah 30:10a–b) is the hallmark of the rebellious (Isaiah 30:9a). It’s not that they don’t want preaching at all. Rather, they refuse to hear YHWH’s law (verse 9c); they accumulate for themselves preachers of smooth things (Isaiah 30:10c; cf. 2 Timothy 4:3–4). 

But to despise God’s Word is not merely to have a flaw in our preferences; it is to despise God Himself (Isaiah 30:11). It is to give oneself to perversity (Isaiah 30:12)! God offers them rest, quietness, and confidence in turning to Him (Isaiah 30:15a–c), but they reject Him Himself in rejecting His Word.

Merciful devastation. In this case, the smooth and deceitful words told them that the Assyrian threat could be turned away by the help of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2). But God is going to turn their hope into their shame (Isaiah 30:3). From Zoan in the north to Hanes in the south (Isaiah 30:4), not only would there be no benefit (Isaiah 30:5a–b), but there would be positive failure and humiliation (verse 5c). 

The poor beasts in Isaiah 30:6 would bear the treasure of Israel back to Egypt through the wilderness (same word as “South”), obtaining nothing in return. They unwittingly reverse the sudoxE, and their hope (Egypt) gets a new nickname. Rahab has been a nickname for Egypt, but now it gets expanded to “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (Isaiah 30:7). 

How completely will the Lord shatter them (Isaiah 30:13)? Such that there won’t be a peace left large enough to carry any water (Isaiah 30:14). Since they have rejected having God Himself as their help (Isaiah 30:15) in favor of a plan that depends on their initiative, the Lord’s judgment will match and exceed their vigor (Isaiah 30:16), until they are utterly devastated (Isaiah 30:17)

Why would the Lord do this? He is patiently (Isaiah 30:18a) bringing them to the point where they have nothing but the Lord’s glory and mercy (verse 18b). Let the believer remember that the kindness of God often comes in the painful, afflicting stroke (cf. Hebrews 12:6–11).

Subduing mercy. As the Lord wipes the tears from their eyes (Isaiah 30:19), they are glad. More than that, it was precisely through affliction (Isaiah 30:20a–b) that they are glad, now, to hear His Word (verse 20c–d). And the Word that they now receive is given to them abundantly. The Word comes near them (Isaiah 30:21a). The Word addresses, practically, the very part of their life in which they find themselves (verse 21b). The Word persists with them at all times and places (verse 21c–d). 

Not only do they receive the Word, but the Lord gives them to respond to it. They reject their old idols (Isaiah 30:22). The mercy of God does not leave His people unchanged. Rather than giving them what they want, His mercy transforms them into those who hate what they used to love and love what they used to hate.

Ultimate mercy. The blessing that their own ideas utterly failed to give them, the Lord Himself will now give (Isaiah 30:23a–d). Even beasts, that had fared so poorly in Isaiah 30:6, are now blessed richly in Isaiah 30:23-24. We’ve already seen this as an indication of ultimate mercy (cf. Isaiah 11:6–9). This becomes clear in Isaiah 30:25-26, especially with the brightness of the place. This wiping away of tears, and supernatural provision of water, and brightness that far exceeds the sun is hearkened to in Revelation 21:3–6, Revelation 22:1–5. The same mercy that brings us to repentance has its ultimate end as the mercy that we will enjoy in perfect blessedness forever.

Ultimate judgment. Finally, Assyria (Isaiah 30:31) will come under the very judgment of Hell (Isaiah 30:27-33). The song of Israel’s blessing (Isaiah 30:29) will correspond to the song of YHWH’s punishing Assyria (Isaiah 30:32). Whereas Egypt was not so great as to be the help they had imagined, Assyria is not so great a threat as they had imagined. They should not fear them who can only kill the body. The Lord, after killing the body, righteously casts the wicked soul into Hell (cf. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5): the indignation of His anger, the flame of devouring fire (Isaiah 30:30). Tophet’s (the fire in the valley of Hinnom/Gehenna) pyre is fire with much wood (Isaiah 30:33a–c)—the breath of YHWH kindling it like a stream of brimstone (verse 33d–f). God’s people and God’s enemies both get the same thing in the end: God Himself. For His people, God is their blessed delight. For His enemies, God is their burning destruction.

From where does the desire to hear only smooth/easy preaching come? What devastating failure or painful affliction have you had in your life? IF you are a believer, what was it accomplishing? How has mercy subdued your resistance to God’s Word? What else does such mercy give you, beside repentance? If God is not your blessed delight forever, then what will you experience forever?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your authoritative Word. Forgive us for how we have sometimes rejected it, even preferring our own plans to Your perfect precepts. We have been blind to how rejecting Your authoritative Word is really a rejection of You. Save us from our sin, bring us through affliction, wipe the tears from our eyes, and make Yourself our hope and our joy in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Chief End of Redemption [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 105]

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom.
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2023.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 105

Read Psalm 105

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Psalm begin (Psalm 105:1a)? How does it end (Psalm 105:45c, cf. Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a)? What is to be added to this thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 105:1b, cf. Psalm 105:3-4)? What else (Psalm 105:1c, cf. Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5)? Among whom? What does Psalm 105:6 call these peoples? Who is He (Psalm 105:7a)? And to them? Where does He operate (verse 7b)? What does He remember (Psalm 105:8)? For how long? With whom did He make it (Psalm 105:9-10)? What did He promise them (Psalm 105:11)? At what time (Psalm 105:12-13)? What did He do for them then (Psalm 105:14)? What did He call them (Psalm 105:15)? What was one way He brought His covenant to pass (Psalm 105:16-22)? What was another (Psalm 105:23-25)? How was this resolved (Psalm 105:26-38)? What was it like when He brought them out (Psalm 105:39-41)? Why did He do this for a grumbling people (Psalm 105:42)? What did He give them in their hearts (Psalm 105:43)? Why—what does this verse call them? What else did He give them (Psalm 105:44)? So that they would do what (Psalm 105:45a–b)?

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom. 

God redeems sinners to display His glory, Psalm 105:1–5Psalm 105:45c. There is nothing better for the creature than to enjoy the great glory of the Creator, which God has especially given His people to do by praising (Psalm 105:1a, Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a, Psalm 105:45c), praying (Psalm 105:1b, Psalm 105:3-4), and preaching (Psalm 105:1c, Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5). God is His own pleasure from all eternity, and there is no greater gift than for Him to bring us into His pleasure in His own glory (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11, John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His faithfulness, Psalm 105:6-12Psalm 105:42. He makes them promises so that they are brought into fellowship with Him by His Word. This binding-promise, Psalm 105:8-10 calls a covenant. He spoke it (Psalm 105:11), when it appeared impossible (Psalm 105:12), showing that His Word will always be kept, simply because it is His (Psalm 105:42). His redemption, coming according to covenant, is a great display of His faithfulness.

God redeems sinners to display His power, Psalm 105:13-38. Whether Canaanites (Psalm 105:13-15), famine and slavery for Joseph (Psalm 105:16-22), or bondage under a hostile Pharaoh (Psalm 105:23-38), the Lord brought His people through hardship after hardship. He displayed His power in protecting them from ultimate harm, in carrying them in the midst of the hardship, and in delivering them out of the hardship. This was especially on display in the plagues. God’s redemption is a great display of His power. 

God redeems sinners to display His mercy, Psalm 105:39-41. The amazing thing about this part of the Psalm is that, despite God making a display of Himself to them, they grumbled! The grumbling about food and water literally occurred before the pillar of cloud and fire. Yet, God showed them mercy with quail, manna, and even water from the rock. He redeems sinners precisely to display the riches of His glory in mercy toward them who don’t deserve it.

God redeems sinners to display His generosity, Psalm 105:43-44. As we noted in thinking about the display of His glory, this is the greatest generosity. Protection, provision, inheritance… these are all well and good. But the great generosity is the joy and gladness of knowing Him and being known by Him, of loving Him and being loved by Him. It is the joy of God Himself, and He redeems us to bring us into it. When the Lord Jesus is praying for us according to the eternal covenant within the Godhead, this is precisely what He prays for (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11; John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His wisdom, Psalm 105:45a–b. In redeeming sinners, God makes sinners new so that they receive His Word, and as He sustains them in following that Word, they discover the goodness and fruitfulness of His wisdom in their lives. He saves them by grace through faith. And not only does He give them statutes and laws, but He works in them to make them to walk in those good works that He has prepared beforehand for them (Psalm 105:44, cf. Ephesians 2:8–10). 

God redeems sinners for His own glory in their good. What a marvelous God He is! Praise the LORD!

What is your chief end? Has God redeemed you? How ought you respond? How have you been responding this way? For each attribute of His in this Psalm, what is one way that He has done this with you? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your great glory. You have been faithful to make Your covenant and keep it. You have protected us from every evil, sustained us through every trial, and will save us out of every adversity. We praise You for the mercy in which You repay our sin with forgiveness in Christ and kindness that is according to His merity. Thus You gave your people meat, and manna, and water. And thus You have given us every blessing in our lives. Even more than that, You have made Yourself our reward and joy, bringing us into Your own glory and joy. Grant that we would observe Your statutes and keep Your laws, and glorify and enjoy You now and forever, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP105A “O Thank the LORD (Call on His Name)” or TPH105C “O Praise the LORD, His Deeds Make Known”

Monday, November 27, 2023

Holy Blood for Atonement and Life [2023.11.26 Evening Sermon in Leviticus 17]

Blood was holy to Israel because God used it to point to the atonement of Christ for us and the life of Christ in us.

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Happy Mourning (and Happier Comfort!) [2023.11.26 Morning Sermon in Matthew 5:4–5]

Longing for Christ and His kingdom includes profound grief for a time, but they to whom the Spirit gives this longing are blessed already in the sure hope of perfect, eternal blessedness

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God's Battle Plan for the Mind 4: Occasional Meditation [2023.11.26 Sabbath School]

Scripture teaches us to interact personally with God, by means of His Word, throughout our life—taking occasions from His providence to meditate upon Scripture that is illustrated by that providence or applies to that providence.
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How All Things Happen [Theology Simply Explained: Westminster Shorter Catechism 8]

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 8—especially explaining how God sovereignly carries out His own purposes, because He is a (the) true and living God.

Q8. How doth God execute His decrees? God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
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Riches of Glory in Mercy! [Family Worship lesson in Romans 9:19–24]

Why does God still find fault? Romans 9:19–24 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the real question is not why God finds fault, but why hasn’t He yet destroyed those who are at fault?
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2023.11.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:19–24

Read Romans 9:19–24

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the beginning of Romans 9:19 suggest that these are things the apostle has heard before, in response to preaching the gospel? What have these people asked? What is the implied answer to the next, rhetorical, question? What does this hypothetical respondent say that God is wrong to do and why? Who now asks four questions  in Romans 9:20-24? What is the point of the first rhetorical question in Romans 9:20? What is the implied answer to the second rhetorical question? What is the implied answer to the third rhetorical question (Romans 9:21)? How long is the next rhetorical question (Romans 9:22-24)? What does God want to do (Romans 9:22)? But what does He endure? In what way? What are these vessels full of? For what have they been prepared? Why would He endure them for so long—what does He especially desire to make known (Romans 9:23)? Upon what sorts of vessels are these riches made known? For what has He prepared them? When? Whom, specifically, has He prepared for this (Romans 9:24a)? How did this happen? From what peoples has He prepared such vessels (verse 24b)?

Why does God still find fault? Romans 9:19–24 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the real question is not why God finds fault, but why hasn’t He yet destroyed those who are at fault? 

You don’t get to ask the questions, Romans 9:19-20. The apostle had evidently heard this response before, “Why does He still find fault?” This is not someone who thinks he has done rightly. This is someone who knows that he has done wrongly. He just wants to blame God for his own wrongdoing: “For who has resisted His will?” The one who is blaming God’s sovereignty for his own sin is forgetting that the very One that he is blaming—by His own admission—is the sovereign God! So the apostle answers one set of questions with another set. And the first point is that you don’t get a say, because you are not God. Will you, a mere man—a wicked man—reply against God, the sovereign God? You are creation, and He is Creator. You don’t get to ask the questions (cf. Job 38:3, Job 40:7). 

God has a right to find fault, Romans 9:21-22. God has as much right and power to determine our destiny as a potter has over what sort of vessel to make out of a lump of clay (Romans 9:21).  If He makes a vessel of wrath, prepared for destruction, that vessel will freely choose sin and be deserving of His wrath and destruction. God remains righteous; the vessel is wicked, and it would actually be wrong of God if He did not find fault! When we, who are sinful, challenge God’s right to find fault, we not only have forgotten our place (Romans 9:19-20), but we have done something much worse. When we challenge God’s right to find fault, we have forgotten God’s place. God is right to want to glorify His justice and power. His wrath is an expression of His perfections.

The real question is: why hasn’t God destroyed us yet? (Romans 9:22). The question that was asked in Romans 9:19 isn’t just illegitimate because it forgets our place and forgets God’s place. It is illegitimate because it is actually responding to patience and goodness. A wrath-deserving sinner is only able to ask such a question because he has not yet suffered the destruction that he deserves! God is “enduring him with much longsuffering” (Romans 9:22). God is long-suffering, even with the reprobate! If you do not respond to this goodness and forbearance by turning from your sin, you have only yourself to blame that you are reprobate (Romans 2:4–5). Even knowing that you will receive destruction for that, you continue to store up wrath for yourself against the day of wrath—and you want to blame God? The real question is not why does God find fault with you. It is why is God being patient with you?!

The answer: to make known, by mercy, the riches of His glory, Romans 9:23-24. Notice the difference in emphasis between Romans 9:22 and Romans 9:23. This difference is especially notable in the word “riches.” It is by His mercy that He makes the riches of His glory known. And He prepares vessels for mercy. They contribute their sin. This is what we contribute to our salvation! The sin from which we need to be saved. Vessels of mercy were no better than vessels of wrath, but mercy came and made the difference (cf. Romans 9:15). Romans 9:24 brings us back to the issue that began this discussion (Romans 9:6). If it were not for God’s desire to make the riches of His glory known on vessels of mercy, no Jews at all would have been saved. And no Gentiles either. But He has been pleased to make these riches known in the way that He has chosen. And whether talking about ourselves, or about the relative numbers of Jews or Gentiles saved, the amazing thing is that there is mercy at all—and all the more amazing for the abundance of it.

From where, in our hearts, come questions that challenge the goodness of God? If you perish, who will be to blame for it? If you are saved, what did you contribute to it? What should we see, when we consider the question of who are saved and how many? If you aren’t seeing mercy in these things, where can you get this ability?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when our hearts or minds challenge the goodness of Your election or Your work. Grant that we would honor You as the good Potter, Whose mercy is glorified both in the vessels prepared for mercy and in the longsuffering with which You endure vessels prepared for wrath. Make us not only humble to submit to Your right and rule, but also amazed at the greatness of Your mercy that we might worship You rightly, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, From the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Nov 26, 2023, Lord's Day Live Streams (live at 10:10a, 11a, 3p)

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The Lord's Will Only from the Lord's Word [2023.11.25 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald]

Hopewell Herald – November 25, 2023

Dear Congregation,

What a frightful thing the judgment of the Lord is! And one of the ways that it appears in this life is when He gives us over to ourselves (cf. Rom 1:24, 26, 28).

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts […]
26 For this reason God gave them up to
vile passions […]
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in
their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting

This is one reason that we must always measure what the Lord is calling us to do by His Word—not by our feelings, and certainly not by trying to interpret providence (e.g. “opened doors” or “signs,” etc.). When God righteously judges someone, He not only gives them over to doing the things that deserve death, but even to approving those things (cf. Rom 1:31).

29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

If we are given over to ourselves, we might do any one of the things in that list, and tell ourselves that it is “the Lord’s will.” Too many times, I have heard that sort of justification even for things like marital infidelity or joining/staying in a church that denies the divinity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, the gospel of salvation by grace alone, or the transformation of life that grace produces.

One of the fastest ways to run headlong into such a judgment of God is to think of the Lord’s will as something our feelings “tune in” through twists of providence, rather than something that we learn from the Bible, biblically understood. If we perceive the Lord’s calling by way of signs and feelings, we leave ourselves open to precisely this self-deception.

Even those who murder Jesus’s servants can do so, thinking that God has called them to this “service” (cf. Jn 16:2).

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Thankfully, the Lord has given us His will in writing (cf. Isa 8:20), so that we don’t have to give in to claimed spiritual revelations that contradict His will (cf. Isa 8:19).

19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

What a great gift, then, the Bible is!

And it is a great mercy of God that He has given to us to worship Him, largely by this very gift: reading the Bible, praying the Bible, singing the Bible, hearing the Bible preached, and having all of that Bible authenticated by Christ’s own biblical sign in the Supper.

Looking forward to that worship together,


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Spirit-Given—and Satisfied—Groanings [Family Worship lesson in Matthew 5:4–6]

What is the inner life of a believer like? Matthew 5:4–6 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the inner life of a believer is one of longing for Christ, and for what we shall be like, in Him, at last.
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2023.11.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 5:4–6

Read Matthew 5:4–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Who are blessed in Matthew 5:4? What will be done to them? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:5? How? Who are blessed in Matthew 5:6? For what do they hunger? What else do they do for righteousness? What will be done for them?

What is the inner life of a believer like? Matthew 5:4–6 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the inner life of a believer is one of longing for Christ, and for what we shall be like, in Him, at last.

Blessed are those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). Those who are poor in spirit, who know Christ to be their only wealth, already have the kingdom (Matthew 5:3b). But despite the “already” of having the kingdom, they mourn that it has not yet come in its fullness. They still pray, “Thy kingdom come” (cf. Matthew 6:10).  They grieve that they do not yet see all things subjected to Christ (cf. Hebrews 2:8, Romans 8:18–25). Their eyes still cry tears, because death and sorrow and sin and pain continue (cf. Revelation 21:4). 

But if we mourn over our sin and misery and all ongoing effects of the fall, as those who hate everything that is against Christ (Matthew 5:4a), then we must surely be comforted in the completion of the working out of the effects of His victory (verse 4b). The days for these grievous things are numbered. They shall be ended. Then, those who mourn shall be everlastingly comforted. One of the things that most pains us is the feeling that comfort will never come. But let such feelings be overruled by the truth of Christ—by the reality of Christ! They shall, indeed, be comforted.

Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:5). The believer continually experiences something much more troubling than the fact that the cosmos is not yet what it ought to be. The believer himself is not what he ought to be. For that reason, he is meek before God and before men. Before God, faith has learned not to murmur or complain of Him or of His providence, because faith in this life is keenly aware that we are not yet what we ought to be. God is making us what we ought to be, so we yield to whatever His fatherly wisdom and goodness determine to give us.

The partially sanctified believer also refuses to think highly of himself in comparison to others. And he does not attempt to inflate others’ opinion of himself. This comes with a great present blessedness. If we do not advance our own reputation or our own interests, but meekly know our place as unprofitable servants at best (Matthew 5:5a), we find that resting in Christ elevates us to the status of joint-heirs with Him (verse 5b)—even if, for a time, we suffer as we wait for the inheritance (cf. Romans 8:17). And, it gives us an even greater future blessedness, as we come into the full inheritance of the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). There is a contentedness with God in the meekness of Matthew 5:5, but we have already begun to consider how it is accompanied by a holy discontentedness with ourselves. In this life, we simply are not righteous like we ought to be (and neither are others toward us). If our hunger and thirst is for righteousness, we will be constantly hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:6a)! This simply isn’t the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells (cf. 2 Peter 3:13). 

Again, there is a filling that is present. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness find that Christ Himself is satisfying. We even praise God that He is completely satisfied with us in Christ. But, the God Who loves us with adopting love is not satisfied to leave us as we are. He is determined to conform us to the image of His Son (cf. Romans 8:29).  Therefore, we are not satisfied to remain as we are. Trying to live that way is a common mistake of our antinomian age. But the promise in Matthew 5:6 is set in the future. They shall be filled. Our happiness is forward-looking to glory. 

Here is a marvelous guarantee: we in whom the Spirit has created this hunger shall ultimately be filled. The work that He has begun in us WILL be completed (cf. Philippians 1:6). We WILL be conformed to Christ’s image (cf. Romans 8:29–30). And even as we purify ourselves as He is pure, we are doing this precisely because we have that assured hope that we will be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2–3).

In what way has grace taught you to mourn? Over what, specifically, have you been mourning by this grace? How has your meekness before God been presenting itself in your life? How has your meekness before men been presenting itself in your life? In what particular ways have you been hungering and thirsting for righteousness? In what way can you be satisfied now? In what other ways are you sure to be satisfied later? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us Christ, so that we may be blessed already in Him. And thank You for producing in us, by Your Spirit, holy groaning and longing for the ultimate fulfillment of all that You have desired for us and Christ has won for us. Grant unto us to live happily as those who know already the satisfaction that is absolutely sure to be completely fulfilled in Christ, we ask through His Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Friday, November 24, 2023

Is Predestination Right? [2023.11.22 Midweek Sermon in Romans 9:14–18]

God is both righteous and merciful and compassionate to save from among sinners who all deserve to be hardened.

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Consecrated Atonement and Life in Christ's Blood [Family Worship lesson in Leviticus 17]

What is the first part of Israel’s distinguishing the holy from the common? Leviticus 17 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the first part of Israel’s distinguishing the holy from the common was to be their respect for the holiness of blood.
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2023.11.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 17

Read Leviticus 17

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does YHWH speak (Leviticus 17:1) to address which three groups (Leviticus 17:2a) introducing  the statement in what way (verse 2b)? What three things might a man have killed (Leviticus 17:3)? In what two places? But failed to do what (Leviticus 17:4)? What will be the consequence? What will he have done? With what penalty? Where must the children of Israel carry out all such slaughterings (Leviticus 17:5)? To what with them (end of verse 5)? What must they do with the blood (Leviticus 17:6)? And with the fat? What had they otherwise been doing (Leviticus 17:7)? What entire categories of offerings are addressed now in Leviticus 17:8 (beyond just when the offered thing is an ox, lamb, or goat)? What might the offerer fail to do (Leviticus 17:9)? What shall be done with him? What two types of people does Leviticus 17:10 consider? What might they do? Who will do what two things to him? What do such rules teach about the blood (Leviticus 17:11)? For what purpose has the Lord given it to them? Therefore, whom does the Lord prohibit from what (Leviticus 17:12)? What two groups of people does Leviticus 17:13 consider? What incident does it consider? What two things must be done with the blood in that case? What has God designed blood to do (Leviticus 17:14)? What are they not to do with this life? What must be done to whomever eats it? What is the difference between the animal in Leviticus 17:15 and the other animals in this chapter? What two types of people might end up eating it? With what effect (cf. Leviticus 11:39–40)? What must such a person do? With what effect? What if he doesn’t (Leviticus 17:16)? 

What is the first part of Israel’s distinguishing the holy from the common? Leviticus 17 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the first part of Israel’s distinguishing the holy from the common was to be their respect for the holiness of blood.

Back in Leviticus 10:9–11, the Lord had sought to guard the life of the priests so that they could teach Israel to distinguish between holy and common, and between clean and unclean. Chapters 11–15 had dealt with distinguishing between clean and unclean. Then, chapter 16 brought us back to chapter 10. Now, chapters 17–22 focus especially upon distinguishing between the holy and the common/profane. 

Continual reminder of the inability to draw near due to sin, and of God’s provision to overcome that inability. The Lord had provided various ways of coming near to Him by slaughter. The peace offering (end of Leviticus 17:5) was the culmination of the other offerings (sin/trespass, then ascension, then tribute). The slaughtering of animals for it now governs the slaughtering of animals as a whole. 

The Lord has provided a purpose for this slaughtering, and now He has provided the tabernacle a place for this purpose; so, now, Israel must not just slaughter in the open field (Leviticus 17:5). Apparently, being left to themselves about where to offer sacrifices had even led to them offering to some sort of goat figures, which Leviticus 17:7 of our version translates as “demons.” So, now, every time they kill or eat one of the “sacrifice” animals (Leviticus 17:3), they are to remember that in Israel, these animals especially communicate that God has brought His people near by way of peace (Leviticus 17:5), preceded by ascension (Leviticus 17:8). 

Over and over again, continually, the Israelite was to be reminded “I am a cut-off sinner, but God is my Savior.” The one who did not live in the light of that reality would, in fact, be cut off from the community of salvation (cf, Leviticus 17:4Leviticus 17:9Leviticus 17:10Leviticus 17:14). This may mean execution, as our translation’s margin note asserts. But excommunication suits the words and the context at least as well, if not better. The cutting off is at least as likely to refer to community, or even to inheritance (cf. Psalm 37:22), as it is to life itself. In either case, the penalty is dreadfully serious, particularly in Leviticus 17:10, where God Himself personally carries it out.

Life from the Lord alone. It was not just atonement for Israel that was sacred (Leviticus 17:11) but even life itself (Leviticus 17:14). For this reason, even eating that which is killed by hunting rather than slaughter, they were to be very careful not to eat or even touch the blood (Leviticus 17:13). They were not to ingest the animal in a way that looked to the animal for life, but only in a way that looked to the Lord for life and received the animal from the Lord as a nourishment like bread. Animals were to be their nourishment, not to be their life. The Lord was to be their life. 

This is a good reminder to modern man, who is tempted to substitute science for magic, but treats his food (or his medicine) not as nourishment that God has provided but as the very source of his life. Such an approach cuts God out of our thinking and relies upon our own efforts to derive life directly from the world around us. If we are unmindful of God, then we will not give Him glory or thanks, and we will end up worshiping created things rather than the Creator (cf. Romans 1:18–25). 

Death itself is defiling. The last two verses (Leviticus 17:15-16) repeat what was already established in Leviticus 11:39–40. Though that belonged to the teaching to distinguish between clean and unclean, there is a reminder here that it is the holiness of God that makes uncleanness such an abomination. The unclean is automatically common/profane and can never be holy. Particularly, that chapter had reminded us that death is always unclean. Death came into the world through sin, so death itself must be banished from the gracious presence of the God of life. Worship is not a place to bring that which is from the flesh, from the first Adam’s fall, from the sinner. It is a place to bring that life which God, by grace, has given even to sinners in Jesus Christ! We should remember this when we think about worship, and especially when we come to worship. Though the ceremonial code is abolished, yet believers do have within them that which is from the death of our flesh and that which is from the life of Christ’s Spirit. And it is only the latter that has a place in God’s worship. We must look to Christ, by His Spirit, to wash us clean of that which is fleshly, as we prepare to come into His presence.

What is the substitution that the Lord has provided for you? What is the life that the Lord has provided for you? With what attitude/mindset should you make use of things like food or medicine—or, really, anything else in the creation? What is an example of the type of thinking or feeling that comes from yourself, rather than from Christ, that you need to be careful to deal with by Christ, before coming to worship?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us life and breath and all things as our Creator. And, thank You, for providing for us, as our Redeemer, that atonement by Christ through which we may come near—and the application of that atonement to us by the work of Your Holy Spirit. Grant unto us to live in a continual rememberance of You, our Creator and Redeemer through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH426 “How Vast the Benefits Divine” 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Avoiding Bad Bible-Teaching and Bad Bible-Teachers [Family Worship lesson in Titus 3:9–11]

What must a pastor do, in addition to affirming the truth? Titus 3:9–11 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in addition to affirming the truth, a pastor must avoid uses of the Bible that are not in keeping with the Bible.
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2023.11.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 3:9–11

Read Titus 3:9–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What sort of disputes is Titus to avoid (Titus 3:9)? What other three things is he to avoid? For what two reasons? Whom is Titus to reject (Titus 3:10)? After doing what? How many times? Why—what three things are true about such a man (Titus 3:11)? 

What must a pastor do, in addition to affirming the truth? Titus 3:9–11 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in addition to affirming the truth, a pastor must avoid uses of the Bible that are not in keeping with the Bible. 

Avoid misusing the Bible. The church in Crete had begun to lose the gospel, as was evidenced by a people who were not zealous for good works (Titus 3:8), thereby giving evidence that the actual grace of God had not saved them (Titus 3:3-7). So, as part of his reformation work, Titus was to “affirm constantly” the truths of the gospel.

But not all “Bible study” is affirming the twin truths that salvation is all of grace and that it makes a revolutionary difference in the works that people do. There was “Bible study” (or teaching, or preaching) that Titus was to avoid! We can see that what the apostle warns against in Titus 3:9 includes much that would have claimed to be Bible study, Bible teaching, or Bible preaching by the inclusion of “genealogies” and “the law” in verse 9. 

How do we know if the Bible is being used properly? Well, if it’s being used in a biblical way by biblical people is one test. Scripture is written in words and phrases and clauses and sentences, presented in several different types of literature. All Scripture must be understood in a manner consistent with the grammar, and with the point that that particular style of literature is making within the particular part of the literature. Additionally, every part of Scripture must be understood in light of the whole rest of the Scripture. This is to understand the Bible in a biblical way. Perhaps the most instructive way to learn this is to develop skill in understanding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. We have also already learned, in this particular book, that the Lord Who gave us the Scripture has also ordained particular men (cf. Titus 1:5) to be teachers of Scripture, and that these must first have submitted to and learned from the ones whom the Lord ordained before them (cf. Titus 1:9, “as he has been taught”). 

But those are NOT the tests of correct Bible study that the apostle gives here in Titus 3:9. The test that He gives here is whether the Lord is using the Bible study/teaching/preaching to produce wisdom in the heart, love in the church, and growth toward God. 

“Foolish disputes” refers to teaching that produces not wisdom but folly. The more someone is engaged in them, the more his speech and conduct display things like pride, self-righteousness, laziness, indulgence of the flesh, etc. 

“Contentions” and “strivings” are, literally, fighting words. This isn’t just referring to divisive doctrines (the truth has to divide from whatever error this is!) but rather personal animosity. Teaching that leads to a despising of one another—that is being weaponized to turn people against each other.

“Unprofitable” and “useless” refers to that which does not bring advantage to the hearer. It doesn’t point him to the kind and merciful God, Who saves us not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy (cf. Titus 3:3). It doesn’t affirm that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). It is especially this antinomianism (“grace” without obedience or holiness, setting “grace” against God’s law) that is being warned against as “unprofitable and useless,” because it is the counterpart of “good and profitable” from verse 8.

God’s Word, employed God’s way, will be used of the Spirit to do God’s work. If Titus is to be a faithful pastor, he must avoid using the Bible in any other way.

Avoid men who misuse the Bible. Understanding Titus 3:9 is the key to identifying the man in Titus 3:10-11. He’s not just making mistakes of how to interpret the Bible. That would, indeed, be unprofitable. But the “divisive” man in Titus 3:10 handles the Bible in a way that reflects his own character, rather than God’s character. 

The Bible is a means by which the Holy Spirit works into Christians that Christ-like character that they are to work out with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12–13). But we can see from Titus 3:11 that the divisive man’s teaching doesn’t seek to bring out of the Scripture that which is from God; rather, as the divisive man handles the Bible, what comes out is an indication of that which is in himself! 

The man himself is divisive (Titus 3:10). The person himself is warped and sinning (Titus 3:11). There’s no reason to heed someone whose teaching is an expression of himself; he is already self-condemned (end of verse 11). The preacher/teacher who is hoping for a creation-level miracle of God in his hearers (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6) will refuse to preach from what is in himself, because he is eager that the Spirit would use the preaching to show what is in Christ Jesus the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:5). 

Not only is such a man not to be heeded, but the apostle actually commands Titus not to have much patience with him. The implication does seem to be that this “rejection” is with regard to the man’s being considered for the office of elder, and the abruptness of the protocol shows just how important is the character of the teachers and teaching in the church. They get two (2!) chances, and then they’re done. Out of consideration for the teaching office.

If the Lord doesn’t want us to have such teachers, then we may be sure that He doesn’t want any of us to be such people. May He give to His church such teachers and teaching that will be used by His Spirit to save graciously, sanctifyingly, and productively in the lives of His people. So, may He give to His church to obey this portion of His Word.

What are some ways that you are tempted to misuse the Bible? What is the right way of using it? Whom has Jesus given to you to model and teach that right way of using it? What are some tests that this passage gives you for whether or not the Bible is being used in the right way? Why is it so important that the elders in the church be of proper character in their life and manner in their teaching? How can you, before God’s face or in interaction with them, be a help to your elders in this area of their ministry?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your good Word—genealogies, law, gospel, all of it! Forgive us for how we have used it in a way that produced folly in our hearts rather than wisdom,. Forgive us for when we have used Your Word in a way that produced hatred in our relationship rather than love. Forgive us for when we have used Your Word in a way that made no difference in our lives. Truly, such failure comes not from Your Word, but from within us ourselves. But in You is all grace for us to forgive us and cleanse us. So, forgive us for Christ’s sake, and help us by Your Spirit, we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH426 “How Vast the Benefits Divine”

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Nov 22, 2023, Midweek Meeting Live Stream (live at 6:30 p.m.)

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God's Re-Creational Work [Family Worship lesson in Isaiah 29:15–24]

What transformations will come, in the great work of the Lord? Isaiah 29:15–24 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in the great work of the Lord, His transformation of the creation will correspond to His transformation of His people.
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2023.11.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 29:15–24

Read Isaiah 29:15–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon whom is the third woe pronounced—what do they seek to hide from Whom (Isaiah 29:15)? What have they done to the truth (Isaiah 29:16)? What is it like, for them to speak or think about God this way? In the picture in Isaiah 29:17, what will the Lord transform into what? And how will they come to see their own previous work (verse 17c)? Who will be enabled to observe and enjoy this (Isaiah 29:18-19)? What three types of people will be removed to foster this culture-wide revival of true worship (Isaiah 29:20)? What harm had the “watchers for iniquity” specifically done (Isaiah 29:21)? How does Isaiah 29:22 remind us of how far back the Lord’s commitment to do this goes? What will be the effect upon Jacob (corporately) of seeing this reformation, revival, and redemption (Isaiah 29:23)? What change will this mean for individuals (Isaiah 29:24)?

What transformations will come, in the great work of the Lord? Isaiah 29:15–24 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in the great work of the Lord, His transformation of the creation will correspond to His transformation of His people. 

Pre-transformation blindness, Isaiah 29:15-16. It is an insanity of blindness for man to attempt to manipulate God. But whenever we are deceptive with others or even with ourselves, we are greatly mistaking just Who it is that we are actually dealing with. YHWH is. He simply is. Therefore, He is everywhere, sees everything, knows everything, and is almighty. When we attempt to appear better than we are, we are the ones asking the questions at the end of Isaiah 29:15: “Who sees us?” and “Who knows us?” But this ignorance turns reality upside down, inside out, and backwards (Isaiah 29:16).

O, dear reader, let us not give in to the desire to appear better before others than we are, or the delusion that appearing so makes it so!

Re-formation, Isaiah 29:17-18. The One Who created and formed all things (Isaiah 29:16) now declares that He will soon re-create and re-form. Lebanon was a great and wild forest, but it is nothing for Him in His power to cultivate it (Isaiah 29:17b). Man’s own carefully cultivated work (“fruitful field,” verse 17c), will itself be considered wild by comparison. 

But, praise God, the re-creation that He is describing here in terms of plant life will be surpassed by what He does in those whose spiritual deafness and blindness were exposed in Isaiah 29:15-16 (cf. Isaiah 29:10-12). Now, the deaf will hear, and the blind shall see—specifically with respect to “the words of the book” (Isaiah 29:18). Those who deserved to be destroyed in God’s wrath will instead be changed by God’s redemptive mercy. 

Has this happened with you? Have you been given eyes to see your bankruptcy of spirit, and the divine riches that are offered you in Christ? Have you come to count as worthless any “good” intentions or works that came from you apart from Christ, and to marvel that He Who is your righteousness before God has begun producing true good in your heart and your life?

Revival, Isaiah 29:19-21Isaiah 29:19a literally says that “the lowly increase/add to joy in YHWH.”  The idea here is that the Lord takes those who are lowly and uses them to create a multitude of worshipers. These may be those who are lowly in the eyes of men (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26), those who are lowly now before God thanks to the eye-opening in Isaiah 29:18 (or, likely, both). The rejoicing is not only multiplied but purified. It is “in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 29:19c). 

And the Lord is eliminating many who have hindered the purity and unity of His people: bullies (Isaiah 29:20a), mockers (verse 20b), and gossips (verse 20c). Gossips (“watchers for iniquity”) are especially described as doing harm by their words: 

  • They can turn, instantly, non-offenders into offenders (Isaiah 29:21a),
  • They short-circuit due process (verse 21b),
  • Their useless words keep those who would obtain justice from getting it (verse 21c).

Let us seek from the Lord to multiply and purify His church—and particularly that neither we, nor anyone else in her, would be bullies, mockers, or especially gossips!

Completion/consummation, Isaiah 29:22-24. God’s intent to redeem must come to its fulfillment. It began with His redeeming Abraham and His promising Abraham the salvation of all who are in his Seed (Isaiah 29:22a). Despite all of the wickedness and blindness and pride in Jacob, God has committed Himself to saving. Which will win out, between their wickedness and God’s determination to save? God’s determination (verse 22b–c)! Not only will the Lord bring the reformation and revival prophesied in Isaiah 29:17-21, but His gathering other sinners into Israel (Isaiah 29:23a–b) will provoke even Israel to believe (verse 23c–e, cf. Romans 11:11–12). 

All Israel (from the nations and from Jacob) will be saved, not by their works, but by the Lord’s conversion (Isaiah 29:24). God has determined to save, and He will bring His purpose to pass. Let us do whatever He has given us to do in the hope and confidence that He Who has given us the privilege of serving will be sure to employ that service in bringing to pass all of His redeeming will and promise!

What, about yourself, are you afraid others might learn? Who already knows those things? But what are His intentions toward you? Where, in history/Scripture, can you most see these intentions toward you? What are some evidences, in your life, of His bringing you into Christ? Why can you be sure that He will complete what He began there? What role(s) has He given you in your home? What role(s) has He given you in His church? What can you be sure that your small role will ultimately participate in?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that You do not do to us as we deserve or leave us as we are. But forgive us for how we have thought that we were making a pretty good show of ourselves—as if we could deceive You, along with deceiving others and ourselves. Forgive us for being proud of our fruitful fields that were really just wild forests. Forgive us for being self-impressed. Forgive us for how our desire for reformation and revival do not reflect Yours in the Scripture—if we desire them at all. Forgive us for whatever manipulation, mocking, and gossip we have participated in. We think that a word here, and a word there, are a small thing—but we read in Your Word that Your people must be delivered from such behavior. Forgive us that we have not loved You or Your church enough to devote ourselves to its good. O, forgive us and reform us and revive us, by Your grace, we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me” 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Day of Effectual Atonement [2023.11.19 Evening Sermon in Leviticus 16]

Even the "holy things" of the church need to be cleansed and consecrated from sin, and God provides the only thing that can do it: Christ and His blood.

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Jesus, Priceless Treasure [2023.11.19 Morning Sermon in Matthew 5:1–3]

The kingdom belongs to those who know that King Jesus is the only ultimate wealth.

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God's Battle Plan for the Mind 3: Defining Biblical Meditation [2023.11.19 Sabbath School]

Biblical meditation includes both the setting of our affections upon the Lord and His Word, as well as the careful contemplating of His Word and how we intend to respond to it with our life.
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Blessing the God Who Brings Us into His Own Joy [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 104:31–35]

Why do believers exist? Psalm 104:31–35 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that more than any other creature, believers exist to enjoy the Creator—as He does.
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2023.11.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 104:31–35

Read Psalm 104:31–35

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the psalmist pray would endure (Psalm 104:31a)? For how long? Whom does he pray would rejoice (verse 31b)? In what? What does YHWH do in Psalm 104:32a? To what? What does it do? What does YHWH do in verse 32b? To what? What do they do? What will the psalmist do in Psalm 104:33a? To Whom? For how long? What will the psalmist do in verse 33b? to Whom? When? What does he pray would be sweet (Psalm 104:34a)? To Whom? What will the psalmist be (verse 34b)? In Whom? About whom does the psalmist now pray in Psalm 104:35a? What does he pray would happen to them? And that what would happen to whom in verse 35b? What does he now command to do what (verse 35c, cf. Psalm 104:1a)? How does he conclude the Psalm (Psalm 104:35d)?

Why do believers exist? Psalm 104:31–35 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that, more than any other creature, believers exist to enjoy the Creator as He does. 

From the creation to the Creator (Psalm 104:31-32). In the previous section (Psalm 104:27-30), the psalmist had turned his attention from the Lord’s provision for the creatures to the personal nature of that provision—focusing more upon Lord Himself. Now the attention narrows even further to the Creator Himself. His glory, His joy, His personal interaction with the creatures. 

  • His glory endures forever (Psalm 104:31a). He is un-creaturely. They come and go, but He endures forever. And, in every moment of that enduring, He is glorious. Infinitely weighty. Of such immense substance and reality, that in His presence, the creature must know its infinitesimal lightness by comparison. He has being inherent to Himself; all others depend upon Him for our being.
  • He rejoices in His works (Psalm 104:31b). He Himself is the great excellence. His works are wisely considered, powerfully executed, mercifully carried out, faithfully consistent. Everything about His works is excellent. However, none of these excellencies compare to the greatest one: His works are His. This is the great reason for our rejoicing in them. And this is the great reason for His rejoicing in them—and His rejoicing in His works is infinitely greater than our rejoicing in them! God is good, and God does good, and God rejoices in the good works that He does.
  • He interacts with His creatures (Psalm 104:32). What an infinitely formidable thing it is for the creature to interact with the Creator! Verse 32 takes us to Sinai, when the Lord made Himself known on the earth in burning and darkness and tremblings even from afar off (Cf. Exodus 19:16, Exodus 20:18; Hebrews 12:18). And yet, this is the God with Whom we always have to do!

Known by redeemed, covenanted creatures (Psalm 104:33-34). Men are different from the beasts in that when they enjoy goodness from God (cf. Psalm 104:28b), they can conscientiously enjoy God Himself, and His goodness itself. But all men have sinned in their first father and fallen from this holy delight in the Lord and His goodness. However, by grace, Psalm 104:33 takes the prayer for the Lord’s own delight in Himself (Psalm 104:31) and mirrors it in the delight that He gives the believer to have in God. What God has always done in Himself, He has given to man to do with man’s own life (Psalm 104:33a), with man’s own being (verse 33b). 

Man was created for this, in the image of God, and delighting in the Lord is the great thing into which man has been redeemed, as he is renewed into the image of God in Christ. The redemption in Christ’s blood brings man into a covenantal bond with God in which He doesn’t just sing praises to God but sings praises to “my” God. Psalm 104:34 brings all of this together in a mutual delighting as, in the first line, the musings of the believer’s heart are sweet to God, Who observes them; then, in the second line, these musings have produced the believer’s own gladness in YHWH.

Application to history and to the heart (Psalm 104:35). Believers restored to a full delighting in God forever, in a way that is pleasing also to Him, is the end toward which not only the saint is proceeding, but toward which all of history is proceeding. When the Lord has gathered and perfected His saints, indeed the new heavens and the new earth will contain no sinners, no wicked. So, as we have learned from Romans 8:22–26, the creation, and the believer, and the Spirit all groan for that coming day when the resurrection has come, and the hope in which we were saved has become sight. This is the groaning, the longing of Psalm 104:35a–b.

So, the Psalm concludes as it began: “Bless YHWH, O my soul!” (Psalm 104:35c). The Spirit has traced for us from creation, through providence, to redemption, and eternity: all of this is moving toward believers’ delighting in God. This is why we have being; this is why our souls have been redeemed. So, let me instruct myself from God’s Word; indeed, let me receive His own instruction. Bless YHWH! But then the camera zooms out to all of creation, with the plural, general, cosmos-wide command: “Praise YHWH!” (verse 35d). Or, in transliteration of the Hebrew, “Hallelujah!”

Why do you exist? For what were you redeemed? When do you practice delighting in the Lord? What evidence have you seen of this working out into other parts of your life? Who else delights in this? Who can increase your joy in God? By what means does His Word teach us that He does so? What use are you making of those means? What fruit do you see from it? How do you practice the self-talk modeled at the beginning and end of this Psalm?

Sample prayer:  O Lord of glory, You are from everlasting, to everlasting. Forever, You are unchangingly glorious in Your being—infinite in majesty. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You exist in perfect love, adoration, and delight. And in all Your good works, You delight in Yourself. Now, we come to You as those who are made in Your image and redeemed into Your image, so that we also might delight in You. We will sing to You as long as we live. We will sing praise to You, our God, while we have our being. Grant that, by the ministry of Your Spirit, our meditation would be sweet to You, and that we would be glad in You. We long for the day when we do so perfectly, in a new heavens and new earth. But even now, grant unto us to bless You with all our soul, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP104E “Forevermore May the LORD’s Glory Stand” or TPH104B “My Soul, Bless the LORD”